Organizations are realizing the benefit that face-to-face online interaction brings to their business operations. In response, they are looking for conferencing solutions to help them meet their needs while staying within budget. With digital conferencing increasing in popularity, IT professionals are commonly asked: What is the difference between audio, video, and web conferencing? There are defining aspects and advantages to each and knowing the ins and outs of the different formats can help you decide which solution will work best for your business.

Web Conferencing

Web conferencing involves sharing content live over the web between two or more locations. Visual material is usually accompanied by an audio track. You can use web conferencing to do live presentations, team meetings, or employee training. Typically, participants connect from their own devices to the conference via the Internet. There are different types of web conferences, but the two most commonly used are webinars and webcasts. A webinar is a one-way conference between one or more speakers. A webcast is a live streaming event, broadcast over the Internet.

Video Conferencing

Video conferencing has been widely adopted and is fast becoming the most common form of digital collaboration. Two people having a chat? You're good to go. But when more than two people are joining a video conference, you will require a bridge device, usually a multipoint control unit, often found within a company network. However, they are also available through a third-party provider. There is commonly a monthly subscription based fee with providers. But, some companies supply the service for free. This technology is gaining popularity because visual elements enrich conferencing. Additionally, it lets organizations conduct meetings or pitches remotely, greatly reducing travel costs. Video conferencing also offers audio-only capabilities, file sharing, and screen sharing options. Calls are made on the company's internal network, but if an outside party needs to join in, security usually dictates doing so over the Internet behind a firewall. To make video conferencing most effective, it's important to have good lighting and stand/sit directly in front of the camera. This way, participants appear to be in front of one another, giving users the feeling of a face-to-face meeting, despite being in different locations. Some trends and issues that are emerging in the video conferencing space include: Web real-time collaboration (WebRTC). This allows the use of instant messaging, chat, presence, ad hoc audio, and document sharing. Mobility. Video conferencing applications that support mobile are increasingly important. The key challenges are quality issues with WLAN connections and battery life. Cloud solutions. These are efficient solutions as they require little upfront cost and IT knowledge. However, there are concerns in regards to keeping up to date with current software and incompatible technologies.

Audio Conferencing

Audio conferencing has been around the longest and this method allows many people to participate in a call by connecting through a conferencing bridge. With an ID and access number or unique code, you can log into a group call. This may also be supplemented by individual PIN numbers to identify callers and/or for security reasons. If someone wants to share documents, set an agenda, or provide background information, they usually will need to do so externally in advance of the call, via email, for example. Audio conferencing is slowly losing favor due to the popularity of video conferencing's more personal, face-to-face interaction, though there are still some who prefer the more traditional method. Remember to invest in a high-quality microphone to get the most out of your audio conferencing.

Cloud vs. Desktop Solutions

The cloud now offers a viable alternative to desktop solutions. The main benefits of cloud video conferencing are scalability and cost reductions. With many employees now working remotely, cloud videoconferencing can allow for more flexible work hours, and cut travel costs for your firm. Saving money is obviously an incentive, but time saving is even more important. The main things to consider with cloud solutions are: • Learning how to effectively manage a remote workforce without spending a lot of money. • Learning how to employ cloud video conferencing without having to invest heavily in IT. • Keeping your video conferencing software current and being prepared for the future. • Encouraging your employees to adopt the technology. • Ensuring your cloud solution's compatibility across all your devices and applications. Web, video, and audio conferencing each provide their own benefits. With the technologies becoming more user-friendly and cost effective, businesses now have more choices open to them. Organizations can choose one, like video conferencing, to fit all their needs or adopt more than one, to be used for different formats or occasions. By knowing the differences and what each conferencing type entails, a company can choose the method(s) that will be the best for their business.